Several of my friends are running Richmond, one asked me for a scouting report, so for Rachel, Leslie, Marion and Chuck, here is a breakdown of the course!
I ran Richmond in 2009, made the mistake of not respecting the hills and paid the price! After running the first 10 miles smart, I got excited at the halfway point, picking up the pace when I should not have! I lost a lot time from miles 17-22 because I ran miles 15&16 (the bridge) way to hard and was not ready for the continued climb after the bridge! Fortunately the crowds and downhill finish allowed me to regroup and finish with a respectable time!
This race course is very similar to Boston, and after three recent attempts I mastered the approach to this type of course. Understanding the course and being patient are the keys to a successful race here.
Here is what I suggest (View course map with elevation chart)
Miles 1-6: Slightly uphill, though you will not notice it while running. Just enough incline to add a couple of seconds to your splits. If you are not aware of the uphill you will think you are running a little slow, or you will exert more effort than you expected to run your goal pace. Relax! Go out easy and under control, don’t be afraid to run 10 seconds a mile slower than you planned, you will make that time up later in the race if you keep the effort level very comfortable during this stretch. It is long and straight with only a couple of turns. Enjoy the sights of Monument Ave on the 3rd and 4th miles!
On Miles 7&8 you start a long downhill section, very fast as you run down to the river. Expect a fast splits here! Relax and let your legs go faster, don’t fight it (Run faster, but don’t sprint!).
At the end of the 8th mile you start a short climb, followed by a mile of mostly flat running. Relax along this section, get your legs ready for the next three miles! This section is along the river, very cool running!
At the 9 mile mark you start a three and half mile section of rolling climbs. PACE YOURSELF! You leave the friendly view of the river and start winding through neighborhoods, people cheer a lot though this section. Don’t push too hard in the early part, shorten your stride with quicker steps, control your breathing. Avoid getting your rate rate too high. Find something to focus on here, if you find yourself breathing hard you need to back off and RELAX!
At the Halfway point you have started a slight downhill that quickly turns in a long fast downhill section that lasts to the 15 mile mark. The tendency to run too fast here. You have just heard your half marathon split, your brain is doing the math, you are calculating what your time is going to be and you get a little excited because the downhill running is so easy! CAUTION: UPHILLS ARE AHEAD!
As you near the 15 mile mark you should back off a little and prepare yourself for the next three miles!
At Mile 15 you start up a ramp that takes you over the James River Bridge. You will be exposed to the wind. It is a long gradual climb that continues for 2 miles AFTER you get off the bridge. Stay Focused, Pace yourself, be very patient. Shorten stride, control your breathing, AVOID LETTING YOUR HEART RATE GET TOO HIGH! You will see false flats in the section! (don’t know what a false flat is? GOOGLE IT!) You will lose time on these three miles, but not as much as you will lose if you push too hard in this section! During this section you will pass near the start/finish line, your brain will tell you to stop while you are so close!
Around Mile 18 it finally levels out, but your body is questioning why you are running away from the finish line area!
Fortunately you are now getting some gradual declines and mostly flat sections. If you have paced yourself properly you will maintain your pace through this section, gaining back anytime you may have lost by going easy on the early hills! The crowds will really pick up around mile 21 giving you a boost of adrenaline! The last 1.5 miles are fast downhills!
Here is a breakdown of the course. This will help you to understand why your splits are getting faster and slower, so you do not panic or getting too excited! Pace refers to your mile splits being slightly faster or slower than what you might expect on a flat course (for example +5 means about 5 seconds slower, -5 means about 5 seconds a mile faster) based on the hills, it does not take into account the wind, which should not be that bad. HW=headwind, CW=crosswind, TW=tailwind.
(View course map with elevation chart)